Saturday, April 7, 2012

Italian Easter Pie

I've been feeling like I'm long past overdue for a meat pie.  Easter brings quiche to my mind, but I wanted to do something a little more exciting.  My mind wandered to the Pizza Rustica recipe from Giada De Laurentiis I had made many years ago.  This is a thick, two-crust pie filled with Italian meats and cheeses, also called Italian Easter Pie.  Her recipe includes a delicious, rich crust that I used in my Aussie meat pies.

I don't  know if Italians really eat this pie on Easter, but it is so delicious I'd recommend it any day of the week.  With the ricotta based filling studded with sausage and spinach tucked inside the flaky crust, this pie is a home run!  It goes perfectly with a salad for lunch or dinner, which is how we ate it at my house for 3 days!  It's a hearty pie and the filling possibilities are endless.  I would enjoy asparagus and artichokes in this pie, grilled vegetables, tiny meatballs, Italian cold cuts, grilled chicken...anything!

I made just a few modifications to the original recipe, including using half water and half vodka for a foolproof, tender crust.  A springform pan is necessary to accommodate the copious amounts of filling and allows for easy removal of the pie from the pan.  But I think a large, deep-dish pie pan could work as well.

Italian Easter Pie (Pizza Rustica)
Makes one 9-inch pie in a springform pan
Slightly modified version of a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 Tb. ice cold vodka
2 Tb. ice water, more may be needed

Blend the flour, the butter, the shortening and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in the eggs, pulsing the machine to incorporate them. Add the vodka and pulse again a few times.  Add the water and process just until the dough starts to come together. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, with 1 piece twice as large as the second piece. Flatten the dough pieces into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes.

8 ounce bulk Italian sausage
1 (10-ounce) package frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed and drained
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 large eggs
2 tsp. garlic seasoning, I used Jane’s Crazy Mixed up Salt
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
a few dashes hot sauce
2 Tb. heavy cream

In a saute pan cook the sausage, breaking up into small crumbles.  Add the spinach and saute briefly to evaporate any excess moisture.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a large bowl beat the eggs and seasonings.  Add the ricotta cheese and whisk well to combine.  Add the cheeses, sausage and spinach and stir well  to combine.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a sheet pan on the lowest rack.  Roll the largest piece of dough out into a circle and press into a 9-inch springform pan that has been sprayed well with cooking spray.  Be sure to press firmly all around so the crust is flat against the pan and there are no air bubbles.  Pour the filling into the pie shell and smooth the top.  Roll out the smaller piece of dough and place over the top of the pie.  If your filling did not come up to the top of the pan, be sure to press the dough down on top of the filling, so there is not a big gap between the top crust and the filling. Press the edges together to seal well and flute the edges if desired.  Cut 3 vents on top and brush the crust with heavy cream.  Sprinkle the top with a little garlic seasoning if you like.  Bake until the crust is well browned and you can see the filling bubbling slightly out of the vents, about an hour to 1 1/2 hours.  Cool for 15 to 20 minutes and remove the sides of the pan.  Slice wedges and serve.  This is great, hot, warm, room temperature or cold.

The filled pie.

Crimped, brushed and ready for the oven.

Golden brown and delicious!

A beautiful slice of Easter pie.

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